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Intramural Scientists Contribute to Tracking Tumor Metastasis

May 28, 2002


Metastasis is a frightening word to anyone who has had cancer or who has had a friend or family member with cancer. Metastasis means cancer has spread to another part of the body. Scientists are looking at the genetic factors that allow cancer cells to spread. The current issue of The Scientist highlights research on metastasis being carried out at NIH and in different laboratories across the country.

Scientists are identifying the signals that create the potential for metastatic spread of cancer cells. Many of the labs are using DNA Chip Analysis, a new way to study the amount of expression of thousands of genes in one experiment. In order for cancer cells to spread and survive, there are complex changes in expression of a series of genes that are seen in repeated patterns. cDNA microarrays are able to track these patterns or stages in the life of a cancer. Scientists monitor the hybridization of DNA strands generated from a cell's messenger RNA by attaching single-stranded DNA to a chip.

Dr. Carter Van Waes and his Laboratory of Head and Neck Cancer Research at NIDCD are investigating a model of squamous cell cancer that behaves like human cancers of the mouth, throat, and skin at different stages. People with cancers of the mouth, throat, and lungs have often been exposed to tobacco and alcohol. Using this model, NIDCD scientists Drs. Gang Dong and Zhong Chen found that many of the genes expressed in squamous cell cancer metastasis are related to important cell signal molecules, called nuclear factor-kappaB and MET. Blocking of these signals blocked the growth of human and mouse squamous cell cancers. Ultimately, identification of these molecular controls will be used as targets to test new drugs that may prevent or halt the formation of cancers and the metatastic process.

Last Updated Date: 
May 28, 2002